14 July 2010

UP COUNTRY Novella: Chapter 7

I've decided that in the process of raising $$ and working on Up Country (or whatever we end up calling it), to release the story in serialized novella form. Every $500 we raise, I'll put out another chapter. I'll be writing it (and revising it) as we go, so if we raise money faster than I can write, so be it. The end won't come until after we hit our goal. Enjoy!

[Carlton Cuse voice]

previously, on UP COUNTRY


Chapter 7

John ran faster than he had run in years, faster than he thought was still possible.

He had never seen eyes that contained so much hatred, so much hunger, so much pure evil. In his mind's eye they were yellow, almost glowing, like a wolf or a coyote or a bear, ready to tear him limb from limb at the slightest provocation. The sort of eyes that haunt your dreams. Had he been mistaken? No, there was a weapon--an axe or a spear or a sword, something sharp and painful. It was a man protecting something, defending his turf, and he had intruded.

He ran like a man possessed, blindly down the road. Branches whipped his face.

He knew he should look back to make sure Paul and Mark had gotten away. He had yelled to them, hadn't he? The moments after he had come across those eyes had been something of a blur, so he couldn't be certain, but he thought he had yelled something. At minimum they would have a head start on the psychopath and should be able to outrun him. Mark, especially, was young and somewhat athletic, but he wasn't sure about Paul. How fast could he run? He knew Paul was older, but couldn't be sure how old, exactly.

He ran some more.

Paul had been on one knee, wiping blood on the grass when John had fallen away from the shed and bolted. On closer inspection, Paul saw the blood had been smeared on the rock with a wide brush and had started to dry and turn brown. He figured it was still relatively fresh, and was about to make a more thorough investigation when he had heard John's panicked yells of Run, run. Fuck me, run. His right hand was still on a rock for support, so he used it to push himself up and followed John's lead.

He looked back briefly to see a man lumbering out of the shed. That was all he needed to see.

The wind rushing past his ears, his heart pounding, John tried to focus his attention. He thought back to his high school track days, trying to remember his coach's tips. He pumped his arms, lengthened his stride, and was careful not to turn around, lest he slow himself down. Plus, he figured whatever was going on back there, however close the axe murdering serial killer might or might not be, it was probably best that he not know. He remembered a story he'd once heard, something about how you don't have to outrun a bear, you just have to outrun the guy next to you. It was enough to know there were two people between him and danger. All he had to do was stay in the lead.

And so he ran, down the road, ducking to avoid low-hanging branches. When he came to a fork in the road, he took it.

In his fishing boots, Paul struggled to keep up with John. He could see John up ahead, pulling farther ahead. John would vanish from view when the road turned, then reappear when it straightened out again. Paul tried to call out for John to keep up, but he was having trouble drawing enough air into his lungs and his cries came out as nothing more than the wheezes of a desperate man. He feared John would run too far ahead and be gone for good.

John's lungs burned. He had no idea how far he had run (A mile? Two?) when the road emptied into a clearing. He kept going.

Paul saw John reach the clearing and figured it might be his last opportunity to get his attention, so he slowed his pace in order to gather the resources for one last scream. He shortened his step and the shift in stride put him off-balance. He never saw the root that caught his toe, sending him tumbling to the ground.


John slowed when he heard his name and turned around to see Paul face down in the dirt, scrambling to get back up. He ran back to help and readied the knife in anticipation of the madman, should he come barreling around the corner, but he didn't appear. It was oddly quiet.

Had they lost him?

Paul was on all fours, struggling for breath. His hat was gone. His face was flushed crimson. The fall had knocked the rest of the wind out of him. It took him a minute to speak.

"Who the fuck was that?"

John bent over, his hands on his knees. He had no idea. "You ok?"

Paul nodded. "More or less."

It was another minute before either one of them spoke. John straightened up. "Hey Paul?"


"Where's Mark?"

They turned around, looking back in the direction of the camp. There was no sign of Mark. No one was yelling. They couldn't even hear someone running through the woods. It perfectly quiet. Too quiet. There was no sound at all.

...to be continued when our Kickstarter campaign hits $3,500...